Jersey Boys – A Show For Four Seasons
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
It was the era of sharp suits, fat mouths, mobsters and molls, and all four are so beautifully woven into that musical of musicals, the Jersey Boys, which is back in West Yorkshire to rightly wow adoring audiences once more.
Sport, Mafia or music, was the probable fate of New Jersey’s ‘Boys from the Hood’. Fortunately, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons chose the latter despite a brief relationship with petty crime.
Their music is timeless and embedded deeply into the psyche of so many generations. Bye Bye Baby was Frankie and his boys, not the Bay City Rollers! And the list went on as the wonderful Michael Watson, with his near perfect impression of Valli, ploughed through the back catalogue; Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man and Rag Doll amongst the many.
Decades on Bob Gaudio’s music remains living proof that the boys made the right decision to skip crime for music, for we are heirs to a rich array of songs that have been immortalised, yet further, in Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice’s mega musical Jersey Boys which is one of the tightest shows in town.
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Clearly there was continuing friction between the original Four Seasons, Valli, Tommy Devito, Gaudio and Nick Massi, before Valli eventually became the definitive front man and evolved into Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.
And it is that character friction that is so well articulated in Jersey Boys, because the two writers of the musical spoke to each member of the original line up before putting pen to paper and, when they did, they gave each character a voice without taking sides. You get four versions of the same story.
“That Tommy Devito is horrid, I just don’t like him,” said someone at the interval. But, she wasn’t talking about Peter Nash who played him, but the character himself. And, she was right, Devito was a pain in the ass and Nash brought him to life with his beautifully arrogant, self-righteous delivery.
Michael Watson as Valli, apart from singing this challenging vocal score role brilliantly, was the peacemaker, the one who insisted that the ‘group’ take on Devito’s $1m gambling debts so that he didn’t get permanently hurt by Mafia loan sharks.
Karl James Wilson was Nick Massi, the singer who walks because he wants to go home, and James Winters as Bob Gaudio, was the ambitious boy keen to pen tunes but less keen to be on stage. Each of them had a story and each of them were superb
The Jersey Boys works because the life story runs parallel with the music, just like in ‘Beautiful, The Carole King Musical’. This isn’t ‘let’s get a bunch of songs’ and thread a story round them – Mamma Mia is a totally different animal – but the Jersey Boys delivers on all fronts; an amazing story, superb music and fantastic performances.
It will hook you in and appeal to the essence of your humanity, the desire to be told a good old yarn. Add in great music and it is little wonder that Brickman and Elice have cooked up a recipe for success. I highly recommend it.
At Leeds Grand Theatre
Until Saturday1 December 2018
Jersey Boys – A Show For Four Seasons, 22nd November 2018, 10:29 AM